Has Russia Forsaken Us in Syria: Four Chapters in Tehran-Moscow Relations in Syria

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Saeid Jafari
Expert on Middle East Issues

Russia and betrayal; Russia and leaving its allies alone: Such notions are totally ingrained in the political literature of Iran and even some political analysts explain Iran's relations with Russia by taking this assumption as granted.

The latest and the most recent example of this issue is related to Moscow’s decision to end its military operations in Syria. However, let’s examine this issue in more depth and see what has happened in Syria.

The protests in Syria were at first continuation of developments known as the Arab Spring, and regardless of how many protesters were there and what role was played by foreign actors in stirring these unrest in Syria, from a temporal viewpoint, developments in Syria started after similar upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia. What was Russia’s approach to these developments and how did Iran behave? This political equation can be divided into four different chapters.

Chapter one: Russia backs off, Iran stands firm

Following what happened in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, Russia had almost reached the conclusion that it had lost Syria as well. At the same time, Iran was the sole actor, who emphasized from the outset that the issue of Syria is different from other countries and this was not a popular uprising, but was more of a foreign-backed conspiracy. As a result, Kremlin painfully stood by to presumably watch the downfall of the Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Iran was actively present in Syria and did not allow this scenario to be realized, and despite what happened in Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt and of course, Libya, the situation fared differently in Syria.

Chapter 2: Iran convinces Russia

After Syria weathered the most dangerous phase of this development, Iran and Assad could convince Russia that it must adopt a more active approach to the crisis in Syria. Kremlin, which never believed that Assad would last more than a few months, entered the arena and the peak of Moscow’s political maneuvering in Syria came about when it reached an agreement with the United States over dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. While Obama had previously promised that the use of chemical weapons by the government in Syria was Washington’s red line, which would cause the United States to take military measure against the government of Assad, Russia, accompanied with Iran, implemented an innovative plan for chemical disarmament of the government in Damascus and, as such, averted the risk of military action against Syrian government.

Chapter three: Russia enters military phase

After making sure that the military action would not be taken against Syria, Bashar Assad managed to change the situation remarkably in his own favor. More Syrian cities were liberated from clutches of terrorist groups and division among Assad’s opposition caused more people to demand termination of this futile and lengthy conflict. On the other hand, the rise of a global crisis in the name of Daesh, changed the discourse of the Western countries with regard to Syria. Under these conditions, Russia accepted to take a major risk and dispatch its military forces to Syria and start air raids against Daesh bases in the Arab country. This happened at a time that most analysts of defense issues emphasize that when a country enters a military conflict, it enters the conflict out of its own free will, but getting out of it would depend on many different factors.

Chapter four: Russia withdraws from Syria

Russia’s military measures greatly undermined Daesh’s standing and important Syrian cities are now being liberated from the opposition and terrorist groups one by one. It was then that Russia decided to withdraw its military from Syria. Regardless of to what extent this measure is just a gesture and political maneuvering, and to what extent it is real, the important question that must be answered here is which country has betrayed the other? Of course, even talking like this is merely a mistake in the current world of international relations, because actors formulate their strategies on the basis of their own interests and those interests can change form over a period of a few years.

Analyzing foreign policy on the basis of actors’ interests not ideological considerations

Therefore, if we base our analysis on interests and if believe that Iran's interests can be best met through continued presence of Assad in power, the question would be “who paved the way for Iran to do this in recent years?” Of course, Russia has not done and will not do this to appease us. However, since its interests overlapped with ours in this period of time, we have been able to stand by each other and follow up on a common plan. This association naturally will not mean that Tehran and Moscow will stand by each other and move in the same direction forever.

Key WordsRussia, Syria, Betrayal, Four Chapters, Iran, Tehran-Moscow Relations, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Bashar Assad, Daesh, Arab Spring, Military Phase, Interests, Ideological Considerations, Jafari

Source: Khabaronline News Website
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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